tv Washington This Week CSPAN September 21, 2014 4:30am-6:31am EDT
economy and potentially on the american economy? if so, is the fed doing anything in preparation? >> scottish manager about to go to the polls tomorrow. they have had a big debate about this topic in light of that. i do not want to weigh in on this today. cracks thank you. news wire. my question is about your particular view. aboutwas some discussion internally and externally, whether it was the fed predictability in two thousand four. that's kind of created the conditions of complacency that led to the housing bubble. i wonder if you would be more inclined to be gradualist in your approach and more transparent and outlining future moves, or whether you think there is value in keeping the
market guessing. express is something that committee is going to have to discuss when the time comes to normalize policy. looking back on the. , the run-up to the financial crisis, i do not think by any the verysured pace in predictable pace of 20 five basis points per meeting explains why we had a financial crisis. but it may have diminished volatility and been these small contributing factor. the committee will have to think about how to do this. i think many people, in the thinkath of that episode it is something less of a mechanical pace and will perhaps be better, but this is a matter that we will and time have to discuss. my ex thank you very much.
>> thank you very much. >> next, homeland security talks about threats facing the u.s.. then your calls and comments on "washington journal." >> monday night on "the communicators," the recent data breaches. of thes true on all above. we have worked with law enforcement agencies who have busted down doors and drag people out of their basements. we have also participated in fairly large-scale arrests of
multiple individuals that are very highly connected together. very highly organized. they have specialities and routers. some might malicious software. others wash money. they are just like physical or organized crime. there are others that are definitely working on behalf of the government. they have an office. there are because photos. going in and out to work. that job. their job is to hack into companies and steal information on behalf of the government. i have seen photos of eastern european towns, for instance, that will just an insane number of people driving lamborghinis. things like this. is the spam, the fake pharmaceuticals, the financial fraud, tax fraud, medicare fraud, all of these things. it is a staggering amount of
money at some point along that chain traced back to data that was stolen and stored at a corporation. >> monday night at 8:00 eastern on "the communicators." c-span two. ask the video competition is underway open to high school students to create a 5-7 minute documentary. a branch of the federal government has affected you or your community. there are 200 cash prizes totaling one hundred thousand dollars. for a list of rules, go to student cam.org. >> the committee on homeland
security will come to order. the committee is meeting to examine worldwide threats to the security of the homeland. before we begin today, i would like to remind our guests that demonstrations from the audience, including the use of signs and placards, as was verbal outbursts, or a violation of the rules of the house trade i would like to thank our guests for their cooperation and a quorum. i now recognize myself of the opening statement. secretary johnson, director olson, we have asked you to come before the committee to discuss the array of threats facing the u.s. homeland.
the chief concern of ours is the proliferation of terrorist safe havens around the world. the 9/11 commission's number one recommendation was to use all elements of national power to deny sanctuary to terrorist groups. yet we have seen safe havens spread with alarming speed. such territory makes it far easier for terrorist groups to train recruits and hatch plots. during this administration, no lesson three extremist sanctuaries have emerged or expanded in syria, iraq, and libya. and afghanistan as the administration goes forward with the plans to withdraw our troops, we might see terrorists reclaiming the territory from
which they planned 9/11. our obvious and most immediate concern is the islamic state of iraq and syria, or ices. i agree with the president that this group does not represent a legitimate state. it is rather a cabal of butchers committing a violent and perverted brand of islam. it should never have been taken -- have taken the beheading of two americans for our government to wake up the american people to this menace. we have known for many months that isis was surging and represented one of the top rest of the united states. the white house did it without taking action and the president play down the danger. despite recent united states strikes against the group, isis still holds thousands of square miles of territory where they are able to operate their terrorist army.
we seen estimates that indicate that they may have up to 30,000 fighters. 2000 fighters or so are americans and europeans. these radicalized westerners represent an exceptionally grave threat to the u.s. am slammed -- homeland because of their training comics in his connections, ease of travel, and intimate knowledge of the west. today we expect to hear about the administration strategy to detect, deter, and disrupt these foreign fighters. let us be clear, our nation is at war with this group. the twisted ideology it is seeking to express. we must consider all instruments of national power to roll back and defeat them now. if we do not take the fight to the enemy overseas, we risk fighting them here at home. our military efforts much -- must include airstrikes in syria. top military advisor to the president, including the chairman of the joint chiefs, general martin dempsey, have said to debate isis it safe haven in syria must be destroyed.
i agree with them. i hope the president is taking the advice of his top commanders and generals in the pentagon. isis is not the only threat we face. i hope we hear today how your agencies are working together to address the wider danger from violent islamic extremism here at home and abroad. the white house has presented a false narrative in recent years about the threat. they claim that al qaeda was on its heels, on the path the defeat.
in reality, al qaeda networks have grown and materialized into a deadly global franchise with a spider web of affiliates and ideologically similar groups attempting to build the power vacuums across the middle east, africa, and southeast asia. the ideological struggle against violent, islamic extremists is taking place not just overseas, but also here at home. there have been more than 70 homegrown violent jihadist plots or attacks in the united states and's 9/11. according to the congressional research group service. more than two thirds of them have been uncovered or have taken place in the past five years. many of the suspects were radicalized by online islamists propaganda, including the boston marathon bombings and the fort hood attacker. these are the tools that isis excels at utilizing. federal authorities indicted just yesterday a u.s. citizen from rochester for rising money, recruiting, and for zoning training for ices. while the united states continues to battle threats posed by terrorist organizations, we must also be vigilant to protect the homeland against asymmetric threats like cyberattacks from states and
nonstate actors. president obama recently noted that the cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. sadly, many experts believe that the nation is woefully unprepared to protect itself in this domain. in a recent report from the bipartisan policy center 9/11 commissioners, describing cyber preparedness as pre-september 11 levels. last month, the defense secretary hagel said the world is exploding all over. i agree with him. we afford to the testimony today surveying the threat landscape and elaborating on how we are countering those set against us and our interests. before i turn it over to the ranking member, i would like to note that this is his first time as the fbi director -- that the fbi director has appeared before
this committee. sir, we have adjacent presence here today. if i could ask that the members be cordial to him so that we could have his return appearance before the committee. additionally, this is likely one of the last congressional appearances for matt olson. he has announced his retirement. we thank you for your service over the years, 25 years of service to the government. we appreciate you being here and everything you have done to protect americans here in the homeland. it has been a real honor to work with you. secretary johnson, you have been on the job for nine months.
i appreciate your good work and outstanding relationships we have built over those years -- months that you have taken office look forward to having you appear before this committee again. thank you for your -- i was in new york yesterday and secretary johnson was leading the governors of new york and new jersey, the fbi, the cvt, homeland security officials in such a professional manner. it was really refreshing to see that kind of leadership coming from our department on a very serious topic. thank you for your leadership, sir. with that, the chair recognizes the ranking member. >> thank you. thank you for holding this very important hearing. we are fortunate to have an exceptionally accomplished and knowledgeable panel of witnesses to discuss the current threat. secretary johnson, welcome back. you are -- offered useful informative testimony, and expected date to be in a different. director, it is a great pleasure to have the bureau could just
make in today's discussion. as the chairman has said, this is the fbi's maiden voyage before this committee. we look forward to your testimony. i hope that it will not be your last. we will work on that. mr. olson, your years of service, the chairman has artie spoken to, thank you for all your contributions you have made. future is still very bright for you. thank you very much. i wish you the best. mr. chairman, 13 years ago this week, just days after the horrific september 11 said -- terrorist attack, george w. bush addressed the commerce in the nation. in his address, president bush stated that our work on terror begins with al qaeda and it will
not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated. 13 years later, there's been some success out of digger against core al qaeda, but not all terrorists groups have been found, stopped, and if needed. those who were in the audience when president bush delivered his address could not have predicted how this terrorist threat would evolve. at this time, congress was completely focused on preventing another large-scale attack on u.s. soil. in 2001, we understood updated to be a centralized organization. little thought was given to the prospect that al qaeda would franchise terrorism and inspire satellite groups. the prospect that an attack would be carried out by a loan -- lone wolf actor. -- it was barely in the discussion. we were focused on those groups taking human lives. we did not predict that in the decade after september 11 state
actors or terrorist groups would try to devastate our economy and still viable intellectual property by targeting our cyber infrastructure. finally, we could not have imagined that on the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, another american president would become before the american people to make a case for defeating and destroying a terrorist organization. indeed, the threat from the islamic state of iraq and syria is legitimate and warrants
attention. that said, the situation on the ground in syria is fluid and complex. defeating and destroying isil is no easy task. i cannot express enough the need for vigilance and care, particularly issues where we decide to partner with individuals on syria to try and beat isil. in addition, we need to remain vigilant and improve our preparedness and resilience at home. last month's arrest of don morgan illustrates my long-standing there that we must reject specific at the religious profiles of would-be terrorists. violent extremism has the race, ethnicity and religion, or culture, and there is no single profile or pathway for individuals who, to embrace violent extremism. since september 11, state and local law enforcement have received grant funding from the federal government to prepare and prevent terrorist activities. we saw the value of this grant funding after the bombing at last year's boston marathon.
as the police were protective gear and stabilized the situation. more recently, there was an example of what i believe to be an improper use of federal equipment and ferguson, missouri. better oversight and tighter controls on how those resources are used by state and local partners is one area that needs to be improved. another area that is a perennial challenge to information sharing with state and local law enforcement, even with fusion centers and joint terrorist acts forces, especially after september 11, we see that information sharing can be improved, given threats from isis, al qaeda, and lone wolf actors. the 13 years since september 11 has showed us that we cannot have a myopic view of terrorist threats. it is my hope that today we engage in a productive dialogue
about the variety of threats to our nation. thank you. i yield back. >> i thank the ranking member. opening statements may be submitted for the record. we are pleased to have here a distinct panel of witnesses before us. first, secretary jeh johnson, sworn in december 23, 2013. secretary of the department of homeland security. secretary johnson served as general counsel, where he was part of the senior management team and lead more than 10,000 military and civilian thought that lawyers. he also oversaw the development of legal access for many of our nations counter terrorism policies and spearheaded reforms
to military commissions at guantanamo bay in 2009. james cohn became the seventh director of the federal bureau of investigation in september of 2013. it has a long history of service to the department. it includes holding positions as both the assistant u.s. attorney and u.s. attorney to the district of new york and assistant u.s. attorney to the eastern district of virginia when he was conducting project exile. i want to thank you for your efforts on that. he also served a deputy attorney general at the justice department. prior to his appointment, he held senior positions at lockheed martin and bridgewater associates. again, thank you for being here. last but not least, this is his last appearance before this committee, but i'm sure we will hear from him more times after this. director matthew olson has served as director of the national counterterrorism center since august of 2011. prior to joining, he served as a general counsel for the national
security agency, where he was the chief legal officer for nsa, and the present legal advisor to the nsa director. he has a long record of service that includes time spent at the fbi with the department of justice and at the guantanamo review task force. again, we thank you for your service, sir. the full written statements of these witnesses will appear in the record. the chair now recognizes the secretary of homeland security for his opening statement. >> thank you, chairman. ranking member thompson.
the committee has my opening statement. i will not read it. in a few moments here, i will mention a couple of things good one, thank you for this holding this hearing. it is important. this is just the type of public opportunity from congressional oversight of our counterterrorism efforts that i welcome. this will not be my last appearance here. it is not my first. i want to say thank you to my friends and colleagues to my left and right for joining me. the director and i have known each other for 25 years when we were assistant u.s. attorneys together. that began in 1998 and 1989 did i have known him a very long time. mr. olson i've known for six years now, going back to late 2008, early 2009. i hired matt to be general counsel of nsa, along with general alexander, we hired him to be general counsel of nsa
and he did a terrific job there. he has been a terrific colleague in the national security counterterrorism world. i and others will miss him very much. we will miss his clarity of delivery in terms of his intelligence assessments. i mention my personal relationships with these two gentlemen to highlight the fact that homeland security, law enforcement, and the intelligence community have a very good working relationship in dealing with counterterrorism matters. we are committed to working together on these issues. we are committed to information sharing. are we committed to a collegiality. we encourage that among our staff. yesterday, the director and i met with other members of the national security team in a periodic meeting to discuss national security topics. we do this often. the other point i would like to make, chairman, is that isis is the most prominent terrorist organization on the world stage right now. it is our focus. from my homeland security perspective, we have to stay focused on a range of terrorist threats.
al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, for example. they are still active. there are other threats. they emanate from that region and other parts of the world that we and homeland security and national security have domain -- remain focused on. we have taken another steps in recent months to a dress aviation security. for example, you are aware of the enhances that i directed in
july and august. we are addressing the issue of foreign fighters in and out of syria, which i'm sure we will discuss this morning as well as, for example, enhanced countering violent extremism efforts here at home through various outreach programs that we have, including the pilot program the attorney general announced earlier this week. we are doing a number of things that will be -- we will be pleased to discuss with you at this morning's hearing. i look forward to your questions. thank you again for holding this hearing. >> i thank you. the chair now recognizes the director for his testimony. >> thank you. it is a pleasure to be before you first time. and to be joined by my friends. to matt also, the american people will never fully know how much he has none to keep them safe. a lot of people in this room know and will be forever grateful. mr. chairman, as you know i was in government for almost a decade. that is why i may have a different perspective grid when i came back to government a year ago. i discovered that the threat had changed in two ways first, thanks largely to our minimum
women in uniform, we have taken the fight to the core al qaeda tumor in pakistan region. at the same time, we have experienced a metathesis of the cancer. the progeny of al qaeda have sprung up and ungoverned spaces in north africa, the gulf, the mediterranean come in ways that are familiar to this committee. the manifestation in syria and iraq is obviously huge example of that metastasis. that metastasis, coupled with the phenomenon of travelers seeking to go to the safe havens to get the experience of being a terrorist, to make those connections, is a way in which that change strikes me. i am very concerned about the going. i'm even more concerned about the coming. there will be a terrorist diaspora out of those areas, especially syria, that we wake up everyday worrying about. the second way in which the terrorism that has changed ask on with the way the internet has changed all of our lives. someone can do it in their pajamas in their basement. these are the home run, violent extremist that we worry about. they get all the poison they need and the training they need to kill americans and away that is very hard for us to spot between the time they emerge
from their basement and maybe kill innocent americans. those are the two ways in which i have seen the terrorism threat changed significantly since i was last in government. secretary johnson mention cyber. all of us have connected our entire life to the internet. that is where our children play. that is where we bank. that is where my health care is. that is where a grid going for structure is very that is where our nation secrets are. people want to hurt my kids. they want to still my enemy. they want to damage our infrastructure. steal our secrets. that is when a company to be effective, all of us need to be
able to address the threats in cyberspace. i think that making sure the abf the fbi's position to do that will dominate the years i have left in my term. it is an honor to be here to represent the people of the fbi. i believe i have the greatest job in the world. it is a pleasure to be back in public service. thank you. >> thank you. and certainly a pleasure to have you here today as well. i forgot that we share the fact that we both have children on social media, which can also be challenging at times. the chair now recognizes director olson. >> thank you grandma could good morning. chairman.you for inviting me. -- thank you, chairman. good morning.
thank you for inviting me. we often meet in closed, classified sessions. this is a really important opportunity for us to speak to the committee in an open session at the american people about the threats we face. i also want to say to you thank you, we appreciate the committee support in our efforts. i was bent at the couple of minutes talking about the threat and then take a moment about how the threat that's into the broader terrorism landscape that we see. first, by every measure, isil has emerged as a dangerous organization. they have exploited the civil war in, taken advantage of secretary and tensions in iraq. to a trench itself in both countries. it has established sanctuaries in iraq and syria. it uses a makes of techniques from terrorist operations, hit-and-run tactics, to today, we agree that isil has
as many as 30,000 fighters. from this position, they pose a multifaceted threat to the united states. this past january, the leader of isil warned that the u.s. will be in direct conflict with the group. there is little group that isil is is the strategic enemy. this threat is most acute in iraq. the group safe haven and resources in iraq pose an immediate and direct threat to our presence there, particularly our embassy in baghdad. that threat includes to those americans held hostage by isil. isil has the potential to use it safe havens to planning chordate attacks closer to europe, and potentially the united states. this threat became real earlier
this year with the shooting at a brussels museum that killed four people. then with the arrest we saw in france of an isil operative. at this point, we have no information that isil is plotting an attack in the united states. what we do know, as my colleague said, thousands of foreign fighters have crossed into syria over the past three years. this includes more than 2000 europeans and more than 100 americans. many of these fighters that have flocked to syria have flocked to isil's ranks. we are worried that they will gain training and return to their own countries. some possessing western passports and travel document straight we are also concerned about the policy that positive on growing extremism based on information on the internet.
secondly, this phenomenon, the rise of isil, and the translation of the terrorism threat. we have seen this movement diversify and expand in the aftermath of the up people and upheaval. isil is just one of the groups we are concerned about. al qaeda core continues to support attacks in the west and is the leader of a global jihadist movement. in syria, we have seen veteran al qaeda fighters travel from past that pakistan. al qaeda's official branches in yemen and somalia continue to remain active. al qaeda in the arabian peninsula has tried to take in a plane down three times. and the boston marathon is a sober reminder of the threats from self-directed extremist. the terrorist networks that exploded -- exploited the lack
of government means they are now active in 11 insurgencies in the islamic world. identifying and disrupting this threat is increasingly challenging. the groups are adapting. they are trying to avoid are the fences and intelligence efforts. finally, this closure of the stolen nsa documents, terrorists are changing how they communicate. they are moving to more secure platforms for they are adopting encryption. they are avoiding communication altogether. we are seeing this. this is a problem for us in many areas where we have limited human collection and depend on intercept this communication to identify terrorist threats and disrupt plots. to counter this threat, the men and women remain vigilant around the clock.
we are dedicated to working with our counterterrorism partners at the fbi to identify the threats, degrade networks, and disrupt both at home and abroad. we appreciate the committees continued support and thank you for this opportunity. i look for dear questions progress thank you, director. i know recognize myself for questions. >> we mentioned that there is no specific credible threat to the homeland. having said that, i don't think i have seen a threat environment any higher. particularly as it exists overseas. with the spread of the so-called islamic state in the labonte -- labonte. now the british a worker, it really got the attention of the american people as to what kind of evil we are dealing with.
it has changed popular opinion in terms of driving policy to eliminate a threat that they don't want to see here in united states. perpetrating those acts of brutal savagery. at the same time you have core al qaeda in what appears to be a competition now with isis. to see who is the true heir apparent to bin laden. it is a dangerous competition. the way i see it is that there is no better way to do that than attack the west. 30,000 of these isis fighters, 15,000 of foreign fighters. over 100 americans, u.s. citizens. many of these fighters have western passports. the ease to travel back and forth obviously concerns homeland security officials and the intelligence community and the fbi. so, first i want to congratulate the fbi on the half a dozen or so arrests that have been made,
including two in my backyard. individuals traveling, wanting to travel to syria, or those who may have come back who could have pulled off a terrorist attack. you stop that. at the same time, i mixed concern that the is something we don't know. i don't know what our level of evidence is as to who is on the ground in both united states and syria that could imply future attacks in the nine states. my question to the panel -- we have seen the florida gentlemen, went to syria, came back. he did lead united states and come back virtually undetected. that is the kind of profile that i am concerned about them want to stop your what assurances can you give this committee that we will be able to stop that type
of foreign traveler, foreign fighter from coming back as a train jihadist and killing americans. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it is something that the people of this table and the thousands of people we represent work on yesterday -- every day. we try to use our resources here and abroad to try to identify those who want to travel. our first mission is to identify them and lock them up before they want to go. if they go, we try to keep very close tabs on them. we will interdict them overseas for that is our preference. or we can mock them up when they arrive. very difficult, as you alluded to. we have in a norma's, wonderful, free country. there are thousands of wasted get the united states to syria. there are tens of thousands of americans who travel for legitimate purposes every day. sorting among that group to find the bad guys is something that we spent every single day focused on.
we've had good success, but i'm not overconfident even the nature of the challenge. >> german, -- chairman, -- the question of our degree of confidence is one that the three of us talk about. my impression is that from the information that we know, and the systems that we have in place to track those who attempted travel to syria, from that i think we have a reasonable degree of competence. not a high degree of competence, but a reasonable degree. we know the numbers, and we know who is attempting to travel, and the fbi has done a very good job investigating, arresting, and prosecuting those attempting to
leave the country. as you mentioned, there was another arrest yesterday. we are enhancing our ability to share information in the national security committee of the u.s. government and with our allies. allieswe are evaluating ways to potentially limit the travel of those who want to leave this country to go to syria and pickup the fight. that is something we are in the midst of doing right now. as i think you know, we have been focused on the issue of foreign fighters for some food of months. in february, i said that syria had become a matter of homeland security, because of this issue of foreign fighters. monitoring, interdicting the travel of those who might want to leave this country and go there is an area of top concern right now. >> syria poses the greatest threat to homeland. i know you one of the first to
say that read i appreciate that. >> i would just add that this is an effort that begins with good intelligence. the better intelligence that we can get at who is traveling into syria, who is seeking to leave syria, the better position we will be to apply the various multiple layers of screening that are available to prevent those travelers from injuring into the united states. -- entering into the united states. one area's we have been focused on for many months, the area most encouraged by recently as the level attention that this is getting with our allies in europe. how closely we have been able to work with them and share information to interdict individuals seeking to travel. >> i do want to hit on the other threat that is within the homeland. this idea of home-grown, von extremism. radicalization from within. there are two very glossy
publications. one is inspire magazine, which is, with the recent addition, page after page of to make bombs. this one from eisen street a very glossy -- this one from isis. a very glossy one that is used for recruiting and radicalizing american the united states. not only to bring them to syria, they are also trying to pull off an act of terrorism in the united states. they are already here. i know that the attorney general had a reason announcement on this. can you tell me what the fbi and homeland security is doing to counter this home-grown, violent
extremist? the department of homeland security for some time now has had programs for outreach into communities in the united states that themselves have a capacity to reach those that might turn to violence. we have recently taken that program and put it into a separate office which reports directly to the deputy secretary and me to enhance its visibility and establish it as a priority. our outreach people are all over the country in various different programs. i have personally participated in these outreach programs. i did one in suburban chicago earlier this year, where there is a community. i have another one next week in ohio. i agree with you that with the
literature and the social media, and i have been through it myself, that heightens the risk of domestic-based extremism. people can learn tools of mass violence through literature like what you're just reference. we have got our engagements. we are stepping it up. the attorney general announced earlier this week a pilot project focused on three cities. we are all the disappointing end. -- we are all participating in. >> thank you. >> director? >> i would like to add on the enforcement side that we are in every community in this country through our joint terrorism task force to work with our partners to define these people and lock them up. that is before they can harm somebody. we are trying to make sure that we are touching communities of interest. that we are in an online way seeing what is going on so that we can spot folks, ssn, and take them out of action if they are a threat.
as we discussed, in a country this big, this free, with the material that is available, it can be a challenge for us. if they are sophisticated in their social media. it makes it very difficult. >> they are very sophisticated in their social media. it makes it very difficult. director olson? >> a fundamental tenet of the strategy that we work on together is that the neighborhoods and communities that are at risk, they are in the best position to identify those undergoing radicalization. an important part of the effort is to give them the tools, education, and knowledge. those magazines like you dish it can influence individual. to be a little work with state and local law enforcement communities and federal law enforcement communities to intervene when somebody is on that path. >> thank you. i recognize the ranking member.
>> thank you. secretary johnson, there have been comments made relative to isil making attempts to enter from our southern border. can you for the sake of this committee and a kate whether -- indicate whether or not there is any evidence of that happening or if anybody has been captured trying to enter our southern border? >> congressman, we see no specific intelligence or evidence to suggest at present that isil is attempting to infiltrate this country through our southern border. i am sure that my intelligence colleague could add to that. having said that, we do need to be vigilant.
we do need to be aware of the risks of potential infiltration by isil or any other terrorist group. we have tools in place to monitor that and to do that. >> thank you. mr. olson? >> yes, i agree with secretary johnson. there has been a very small number of sympathizers who have posted messages on social media about this. we have seen nothing to indicate that there is any sort of operational effort or plot to infiltrate or move operatives from isil into the united states through the southern border. >> thank you. director? you talk about cyber security being one of the new real threats. this committee has on a
bipartisan basis came together and has promoted what we think is one of the solutions to address the vulnerabilities that exist. can you just enlighten the committee a little more on where you see some of those cyber threats coming from? >> thank you, mr. thompson for they come from everywhere. there is something like an evil layer cake with nationstates at the top, terrorist groups, international criminal syndicates, activists, thoughts, criminals, shot abusers, and pedophiles. because the whole world is on the internet, because our world is there, that is where every kind of bad person that you can imagine, that is with a threat is.
>> thank you. mr. secretary, as you know that legislation would have given dhs the resources and authorities that it needs to perfect and protect civilian networks and critical infrastructure. do you see that type of legislation being important as we look at this or nobility? >> for a much so. -- very much so. i appreciate your leadership in this regard. i am aware that the bill that came out of this community passed the full house. -- this committee passed the full house. i believe it is critical. i wrote an op-ed recently on the importance of cyber security legislation. there israel bipartisan support in the house and senate for
cyber security legislation did i think it is critical to our national security. >> thank you. mr. olson, with respect to violent extremism, to the extent that you can give information in this kind of setting, and you seen any difference in the recruitment and sophistication of isis or isil in comparison to other terrorist groups? >> i would say that what we have seen from isil is a very sophisticated rock again to effort. the types of information they are putting out on the internet in particular using social media really exceed the types of propaganda that we seen from other groups. certainly that effort has been quite a sophisticated and extensive. i think that we still -- it to
be seen the impact of that information on potential recruits. one fact i can point to is the number of foreign fighters. this there is a significant number of foreign fighters that have traveled to syria. again, many of those joining the isil ranks. from that perspective, it is obviously a concern that the propaganda is having an impact. >> last point, with respect to bond extremism and how we counter it, that is something you see our allies doing that maybe we should adopt as we look at how we as a country address that here? >> we do work with -- in coronation with our allies,
including the united kingdom, which has a strong program countering violent extremism. we can learn from their lessons. they have had a little more experience with it than we have. our teams at fbi and dhs interact regularly with our u.k. colleagues to identify ways to improve our efforts in this regard. >> thank you. you'll back, mr. chairman. >> we recognize the man from new york. >> let me join you in welcoming the witnesses. it has been a privilege to work with you. thank you for what you have done. secretary johnson, you get the ground running. i want to thank you for that. it is always important to remind people, even in new york, of the constant terrorist threat we face. it does show the cooperation that is needed among all the counterterrorism forces in our country.
all of you have mentioned that is not just ices, but it is also the different threats we have to face. one group, and i am only mentioning this because it was in the media, his or anything you can tell us regarding that? if not, i understand. >> the discussion of specific organizations should be left to a classified setting. >> ranking member thompson ask a question about working with our allies. what are the plus and minuses of prime mr. cameron's proposal that passport should be taken away from people who traveled to syria. what are the plus and minuses from your perspective of taken with her passports?
>> thank you, mr. king. that is probably a question better answer by secretary johnson. quickly, it is of interest to us. i have met with the home secretary to try and understand better how that is working for them. among the concerns that i would have is what is the due process that would come with that in the united ace. how would i protect sources and methods? how would we be able to use the information to make a showing that it would be necessary? i'm interested in the tool that might help us identify and incapacitate these people. i would want to understand the details of the better. >> what would be the advantages of allowing them back into the country and monitoring them? is that too risky? >> we do it on a case-by-case basis. sometimes it makes sense. under limited circumstances, we let them in, cover them closely to see who they connect with. sometimes it makes sense to have them come back in the country and lock them up right away.
it is hard to say. in the abstract. i agree with the fbi director that suspension of passports should be considered on a case-by-case basis. the state department has the authority to suspend passports. i also know that suspension and revocation of passports can be done next decided days -- expedited basis. in a matter of hours or days. it is not necessarily need to be a lengthy process. i agree, given the current environment, that we need to seriously consider limiting the ability of certain individuals to travel. either to go from one foreign country to another or from our country to another country. >> director olson? >> i think this was touched on by the chairman.
how concerned are you about a rivalry between core al qaeda and isis as far as to get themselves back in the headlines, to reestablish themselves as the number one terrorist force? >> i am very concerned about that. these groups are income petition with one another for attention, fundraising, recruitment. one way to compete is to show that you are the biggest and baddest group out there. i think that the environment we are in now presents additional challenges. i agree with the premise in your question. >> director olson? >> i agree with secretary johnson. i think there is this concern about competition among these groups.
one particular example of this would be that the recent announcement by al qaeda core of the new affiliate in the subcontinent. that was announced on social media on september 3. it could be viewed as an effort by core al qaeda to reassert its supremacy. those sorts of efforts can be viewed in the context of white need -- might be an emerging competition between groups. >> the logic of it is compelling. you're not going to be the legal and a global jihad without striking america. a drive that sense of competition my colleagues have talked about. >> the chair recognizes mr. jackson lee. >> i too would like to thank the chairman and ranking member for this hearing. i would also like to thank each of the presenters, members of the panel, for your service to
the nation. having served on this committee from the beginning of the recovery. when the select committee on homeland security was first formed to create this department. i know how important the issues that all of you gentlemen are speaking of art to the nation and the security of america. i think it is important, even in this meeting, to hold up the constitution, to tell all of those who would have a malicious intent towards united states that we will not sacrifice our values, our liberty, our commitment to equality and justice for their terroristic ways. i think all of you for recognizing that we are not here to label islam or the muslim people.
we are here to ensure this security and safety v9 states of america. i want to say that it is important to note from an article that indicated that the issue are the idea of isil begin in 2006, long before president obama, before the american withdrawal from -- that had at that time popular backing. let me be very clear. i believe that our president has been very effective in trying to both downsize and bring down the war in iraq, and is well addressed the national security of the american people. i will not vote for an authorization for war.
we cannot talk about isil without doing something. i will vote today for ensuring that other fighters, in this instance, the free syrian army, is will trying to do the job. that means that we here in the united states much -- must be very sure about what we're doing to protect the homeland. secretary johnson, would ask a follow-up question on my colleague, mr. thompson. coming from texas, do you feel that you have sufficient federal resources on the border to, if there was such an intrusion, that your staffing between the border patrol, intelligence, working with your colleagues, do you believe that you have the necessary resources? >> we have more resources today
than we have had at any time previously. over the last several years, we have at the southwest border an unprecedented level of resources, in terms of people, technology, vehicles, and other equipment. as you know, i am sure congresswoman, apprehension have gone down. they have gone up this year because of the spike in the rio grande valley sector. but we could use more. the bill passed by the senate last year, 744, would have gone a long way to provide additional resources and personnel. that is for the southwest border. >> thank you. i wanted to be clear, if i could. i do support that legislation. i would rather have the federal resources than unpaid national guard that is been put down by the state of texas. let me quickly ask a question for all of you.
we know that we have been acted all of us have been hacked. the question is are you able to discern the sanction between the identity thief hackers and that of the state hackers that are coming in as terrorists on the cyber security grids? could you all answer that question? the women of this nation are seemingly targets of recruitment for isil. women coming from western nations, maybe uneducated, are we having a special target to recognize the concerns for the women and how he would stop that? if three of you could answer that. >> congresswoman let me begin with the question on cyber. we face cyber threats from a range of different types of actors. i think we do a pretty good job of protecting been -- and indicating the type of actor for
each specific attack. it is a range from private individuals to others. i will refer to my colleagues. >> i agree with secretary johnson. it is increasingly difficult as they get increasingly sophisticated in their techniques. we do a reasonably good job of sorting them out. with respect to the recruitment of women, you are right. there is a targeted effort by isil to attract fighters and people who would be's spouses of fighters. given the nature of their male on -- wayne tatian, they are women. they are attracting to him to their caliphate to start families in the work world. >> mr. olson question mark >> i would only add to the recruitment of women. the most barbaric aspects of
what they have done in iraq is the enslavement of women and young girls. and is obviously a huge concerned eyes. if i may add, you out of the constitution >> and i would say that that the director of national intelligence held a swearing-in for those of us to reaffirm our commitment to the constitution. i think that reflects the commitment within the broader intelligence community to uphold the constitution. >> if i could thank mr. alston for his service. -- mr. olson for his service. i would also like to ask for unanimous consent, hr 5488, which is legislation that is called no-fly for foreign fighters greeted does not tie your hands. it refines the watch list to make sure that everyone who should be on it is on it.
>> it is difficult to discern what happens there. lex do know who they are? >> we have specific information about who they are to varying degrees. >> the state department recently said they are not going to revoke passports. it if we know who those people are, i think it is an out right security threat not to revoke their passports. i believe in due process. and i think we can do this. it is a huge security threat to this country if we don't revoke their passports. we all know that t.s.a. has allowed known terrorists that are on the no-fly list to get on
an aircraft in america and that presents a huge security threat to america. next question for all three of you, we have cities now in the state of california that have declared themselves as being sanctuaries for illegal entrants into this country. do you-all see this kind of philosophy of cities or even a state being a security risk to our nation? mr. secretary? >> i guess i'd answer it this way. we have a pretty good ability through law enforcement, intelligence, homeland security means to identify individuals, including undocumented, who are people of suspicion suspected terrorists, and the f.b.i. proves that time and again. i do think that in any situation where there are large number --
a large number of people who are undocumented, there is a risk that -- it hinders our ability to track those individuals, which is why from my homeland security perspective i'd want to see those people come forward and get on the books so that i know who they are. if what you're suggesting is that the risk to homeland security grows when there are larger numbers of undocumented people in any one place, in any crowded area, i can't disagree with that. >> we know we have a porous border, particularly on the southwest. we already know that as your department secretary describes this, we have o.t.m.'s, other than mexicans, crossing the border. that we have apprehended. we don't know how many people have not been apprehended. would you agree with that statement? yes or no. >> we generally believe that --
we have an ability to calculate total attempts to cross the border illegally. apprehensions are a large percentage of that. it runs somewhere between 70% and 90%. we have a sense for who we didn't get who has crossed the border. >> let me apologize for interrupting you. do we know how many syrians or pakistani or iranians or somalians or others have crossed the border? >> in a broad sense. obviously legal migration, and there are obviously a large number of people who travel from those countries for legitimate means, through lawful means. i think we have a pretty good sense of the nationalities of who comes to this country, both through legal migration and apprehensions. >> frankly i believe this visa waiver program we have increases our security threat, too, because of these terrorists
being able to fly into this country on the visa waiver program. i think we need to, mr. chairman, look at that. one final question, some americans say that isil and what's going on in syria and iraq today are just involved in a local civil war. what would you-all say to them as far as the threat that this poses to our own interest here in this country? if i could get all three of you to respond to that. >> i'll start. congressman, i think that isil represents a huge threat to our interests. it represents a potential threat to our homeland security. it represents a threat to the stability in the region. it obviously represents a threat to americans in the region and demonstrates a willingness to kill americans because they are americans. as the chairman and others have pointed out, they have acquired territory. we have to be very concerned any
time any terrorist organization acquires territory for training, for launching attacks, and we are determined to take the fight to this group. >> director comey, would you comment? >> i wish it were a case that was something in the hocks half way around the world, but it's not. >> director olsen? >> i agree with secretary johnson. only add that there's certainly no lack of understanding within our departments and agencies or within the intelligence community the nature of the threat that the group poses. >> thank you so much. mr. chairman, my time has expired. >> during the limited time we have with our witnesses i'm going to hold members very strictly to the five-minute rule. next we have mr. barber, who is not here. mr. payne. who is also -- where is mr. payne? right next to me. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
mr. secretary, recently there have been news reports that have claimed thousands of foreign students 7 have overstayed their visas and have disappeared, however the department of homeland security has done a great job in their own data appears to show that while these cases were initially flagged for review, the location of these students was in fact known by d.h.s. field offices. it is my understanding that there are many reasons why it a record might be flagged as a potential overstay. none of which are reasons to expect dangerous activity. for example, d.h.s.s own press office has stated that many cases appear to be closed due to
a variety of legal reasons. including the students' receipt of a green card or departure from the united states. for generations, american foreign policy leaders have agreed to educational exchanges are one of the most successful foreign policy tools. if eight of the nobel peace prize winners since 1987 have been foreign students educated in the united states. and america needs friends and understanding around the world more than ever. and educating young people here gives us a great opportunity to develop those ties for future world leaders. therefore we need to understand how the department manages the student visa program. can you discuss what the procedures and the systems d.h.s. uses to monitor foreign students?
i want to make sure that we do not distract the american people from the real threats that we are currently facing by mischaracterizing foreign students. >> congressman, given the nature of student visas, we have to depend to a very large degree on what the universities tell us about whether the individual is still a student, still seeking an education in this country. as you referenced there have been a number of individuals who have overstayed their student visas. this is something i've looked into. taken a special interest in. i believe there are a number of vulnerabilities in our ability to track these individuals that are being addressed. a number of gaps are being closed. we have looked into the number of those who are reportedly overstaying their visas. we have found that a very large
fraction have either been arrested or have returned to their countries, or are in compliance through the receipt of credit cards. there is a fraction of that population where there are still open investigations. but i don't have the exact numbers offhand but a very, very large number of those who were initially individuals of concern we found either are now in compliance or have returned, but there's still open investigations on some. so i think we are doing a better job of tracking those individuals and i totally agree with what you said about the importance of student visas and the importance of receiving an education. >> thank you. i just -- i saw a report where they had used a number of 60,000 which was ridiculous and absurd. it appeared that the number's closer to maybe 6,000. i.c.e. has been on top of closing and narrowing that number consistently, is that
correct? >> that is correct. of the 6,000 you referred to, we have found that a large number are either in compliance or have returned or have been arrested. there's still a number -- i don't have the number offhand, but there's still a number a fraction of that 6,000 that are under investigation. i believe most of them are either in compliance, have been arrested, or returned. >> ok. thank you. i will yield back. >> the gentleman from pennsylvania, mr. meehan. >> thank you, mr. chairman. director comey, i appreciate your focus on the issue of technology. i enjoyed your anecdote about the fact that your sneakers may tell your refrigerator you went for a run. i know you appreciate those same sneakers would tell your wife you went to the refrigerator. i do appreciate your leadership on the technology front. i'm struck by your concept that -- your observation after 10 years, seeing the dramatic change and the cyberdomain. we see the fifth dimension of warfare being in this
cybercapacity. one of our former colleagues, lee hamilton, who observed this same phenomenon from our time together in 2001 came back and testified earlier in the week that he sees the cyberthreat as even greater than the collective threat currently coming from isil. we know about the use of the radicalization and recruitment that has been done. we have seen more sophisticated attacks from iranians that have been tied to denial of services from our banks. we have seen criminal gangs use the internet for the creation of ways in which they can do things like extortion and to raise revenues. i'm also genuinely concerned about the ability to purchase expertise out there in the worldwide domain from people that may not be directly
associated but can be hired to conduct activities. of course there's some concerns that even a certain point the kind of islamic jihad could be tied back to isil with cyberattacks, look at government organizations, energy companies, transport systems, banks, things of that nature. in light of that, looking specifically at isil, what do you think the iber dimension is of the cyberthreat that isil creates? >> thank you, mr. meehan. i remember fondly our time working together. thank you for caring so much about these issues. i do think it transforms all of the things we are responsible for. i see isil focused most on using the internet, cyberspace, to recruit. both through peer to peer communications to try to lure people to come and fight for
them. but also as the chair said, through their very slick propaganda efforts, to energize and to train would-be fighters. i know this is something nctc has spent a lot of time thinking about as well. >> have you seen something, mr. olsen, with regard to the activities that lead you to believe there is a growing competency that may create an actual threat from isil on the cyberdomain? >> it's something we are concerned about. at this point i would characterize it as basically just aspirational in terms of any capability of isil or other similar groups to carry out cyberattacks. i think as director comey said, the primary concern about cyber right now is the use of the internet to recruit and attract followers. >> director johnson, you made -- secretary johnson, you may feel comfortable in commenting on that, but i want to take my remaining minute to thank you for your leadership and close cooperation with this committee as we have worked to structure new legislation that would enhance the ability for the agencies across the board to
better prepare to be responsive to this growing of technological threat. can you tell me -- i know you support it, but can you tell me why you believe this legislation is critical to the enhancement of your mission, and why it's so critical we act in a timely fashion on this? >> congressman meehan, thank you for your leadership in this area. i think it's critical. the reason -- there are several reasons i believe legislation in this area is important. one, to codify the authority of d.h.s. to act in the dot-gov world. there is legal uncertainty about our ability to protect the dot-gov world. there are constitutes that some would interpret to inhibit our ability to protect the dot-gov world.
the statutory landscape needs clarity for us to do our job. we know also that in the private sector there are those who are concerned about their legal authority to share information with the government. they are concerned about their civil liability, their potential civil liability if they share information with the government if they act in response to the government. we are also looking to enhance our authority to higher cybertalent. one of my immediate concerns, which i know you're focused on, is clarity in terms of helping us police the dot-gov world. this is something we have to do on a daily basis. we face attacks on a daily basis. not just a cybersecurity threat anymore. >> i thank you again for your leadership. particularly the promotion of the ncic as the kind of junction through which a lot of this
activity can take place. and how vital it is. mr. chairman, thank you for your leadership. i yield back. >> thank for your leadership on cyber. secretary, your strong support and the administration's support for passage in the senate. we all appreciate that as well. the chair recognizes mr. higgins. >> thank you, mr. chairman. just firstly on the isil numbers, about five weeks ago in published reports there was estimated to be between 7,000 and 11,000 isil fighters. the most recent c.i.a. report puts the estimate at 31,000. i'm just wondering if that's -- that distinction is a result of bad numbers analysis or rapid recruitment success on the part of isil? >> yes, congressman.
so the current assessment is that their strength is anywhere between 20,000 and approximately 31,000, 31,500. that obviously demonstrates that what we are talking about is an approximation with a large range. so we have limited intelligence on this question. that's by virtue of the fact that our ability to collect on this question is limited in syria and in iraq. the increase in that number does also reflect some of the recent gains the group has made through its battlefield successes and recruitment efforts, particularly in iraq. so it's both the change reflects our limited intelligence collection, but also the gains the group's made. >> since the commencement of air strikes, have those numbers dropped? have the increases been reduced? because i think part of the military strategy there is to stop the isis momentum, because that more than anything else, is probably the most potent recruitment advantage that isis
has. >> what we have seen from the intelligence perspective, certainly, is that the air strikes have -- had an impact on the military momentum of isil. it's had an impact on the battlefield. it's too soon to tell how those strikes will affect the overall numbers of isil fighters or their ability to attract people to join the ranks. >> so the estimate of future recruitment in terms of isil members is open-ended and unknown? >> i think that's right. how it will look in a year or more from now at this point a question that -- >> it's hard to know where this is going. because nobody saw it coming. if we saw it coming we potentially could have acted earlier to hold its progress. we know that 15,000 foreign fighters traveling to syria, 2,000 of which are from europe and the united states, begins to
bring this closer to home. isil is younger than al qaeda. it's more aggressive. it's more brute a it's better at raising money. it's more technologically sophisticated. and this poses a major problem. my district alone, last year there was a terrorist plot to blow up a passenger train that was thwarted going through niagara falls. two individuals were indicted and thought to have had al qaeda affiliation. in 2003, six homegrown terrorists were lackawanna were convicted in providing material support after having traveled to afghanistan and participated in
al qaeda training camps. just yesterday in rochester, new york, about 50 miles from my district, a man was indicted for attempting to provide material support tore isil. attempting to kill u.s. soldiers. and for possession of firearms and silencers. i think it's -- people shouldn't be alarmed, but i think that the growth of isil, our inability -- we have a strategy that it's not fool proof. it depends on people we have not demonstrated any confidence in before. the free syrian army, and all the thousands of militias that make that up. this is a major concern. i saw it in the secretary's statement, there were five things that the department of homeland security is doing. including aviation safety, and a number of other things.
and that's fine. i just think that the threat of isil to the american homeland is much -- it's more substantial than we are willing to acknowledge. and the idea, again, is not to alarm anybody, but to prepare for what is a very, very serious situation that is metastasizing in that part of the world. they are not going to stop in eastern syria or northwestern iraq. they have a goal. it's very specifically defined. the borders in that part of the world, these people have no appreciation for historically because they had nothing to do with it. they are looking to upend the entire middle eastern region. and wanting to claim it for themselves. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. mr. duncan is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for the timeliness of this committee. i want to thank the gentleman, mr. higgins, for his comments as well. thank you, gentlemen, for your service to this nation. you have an immense challenge
ahead of you. we all recognize that. and we support it where we can. having a dialogue about the threats, global threats to safety and security is very, very important, not only for lawmakers and policymakers, but also the american people. i want to comment about secretary johnson, you mentioned o.t.m.'s and whether we -- you use a broad spectrum and whether it's broad or narrow, the fact is, we have no idea who is in our country or what their intent is. one side of the political spectrum really wants to paint a rosy picture that we have a secure border, but the fact is americans realize that we don't. and we also, i think americans are counting on us in this arena to transcend politics and keep the bad items out of our country, the work to keep another 9/11 from happening.
they expect you guys to transcend politics and focus on keeping us safe. i grew up in the cold war. at that time we were as a nation tracking troop movement of the soviets, tank placements, surface and subsurface ships and where they may be across the country, across the globe. now we are tracking individuals. foreign fighters who may have left our country or europe and traveled to syria to fight jihad who may have been radicalized. who may have the ability to travel back to their country. and may have the ability to come here. in june i was in brussels, before we got to brussels a born fighter had traveled to syria, was radicalized. made his way back through turkey and germany. germany knew about this individual, failed to let the belgiums know. he went into brussels and shot up a jewish museum. at least three if not four individuals lost their lives. he tried to flee through france and caught at a bus stop. germany knew and failed to share
that information. we are relying on information sharing as we try to track individuals, foreign fighters, as they travel around the globe. it's an immense challenge to go back to what i mentioned earlier. we talked earlier or heard earlier about the 100 or so americans that have gone to fight with isis. but we also have somali americans who have traveled to fight with al shabab. we have boko haram. al qaeda, wherever they may be in the arabian peninsula or other maces. don't take our eyes off al qaeda as we focus on isis because it's still a threat. the thing that i want to question about this morning is a classified -- actually unclassified now, internal memo from f.b.i. on june 13, a violent criminal threat section sent out a request for information regarding encroachment mission creep by other federal law enforcement
and the traditional f.b.i. lanes. and it goes on to talk about mission creep by homeland security investigations is an issue and an alarming number of i appreciate the director of f.b.i. saying that's really not an issue, but what i want to point out is d.h.s. was stood up in 2003 to recognize -- after recognizing the stove piping of information, the walls or barriers of sharing information between agencies that possibly could have thwarted the 9/11 hijackings. i go back to the comments i made earlier about germany failing to let belgium know about a foreign fighter that traveled through their country who ended up killing some folks at a jewish museum. we cannot afford to have these type of turf wars between agencies charged with keeping us safe. so how, director, how do you combat that?
how do you keep that mission creep issue from being an issue? i would love to hear from secretary johnson on how he feels about that. >> thank you, mr. duncan. by talking about it constantly that report made my head explode. so i shared that head explosion with every leader in the f.b.i. to let them know how i think about it, which is the f.b.i. does nothing alone. to be effective in protecting the american people across all our responsibilities, we need the kind of partnerships you see visually represented by the two of us sitting together. there's no other way to do it. the american taxpayer should have no patience for turf battles. i have none. >> director, i appreciate you-all's communication. i'm concerned about communication where the rubber meets the road and that's where the communication needs to happen. if you have turf wars going on i'm afraid information may not be shared appropriately. >> that's what i meant by talking about it. i visited now 44 of my 56 field offices. i talk about it everywhere i go to make sure i'm shaping the culture in the right way. i think that's an exception,
that particular -- what's reflected in that particular news account. i think we have made tremendous progress in 13 years and we'll keep working on it. >> thank you. mr. secretary. >> congressman, just yesterday director comey and i got together to talk about cybersecurity, to ensure that our organizations are working together effectively on cybersecurity. we both have a role in cybersecurity. along with other agencies. so one of our challenges is to make sure that what you refer to doesn't happen, because that doesn't do any good for the american people, for our government, for the taxpayers to see you engaged in turf wars. we have committed to setting the example at the top and instilling that example in the rank and file in our leadership. on cybersecurity, for example, we get together routinely to talk about what is our framework. are we getting it right? are we having any turf battles?
all three of us, i think, i think i speak for our respective organizations and communities, are committed to working together. i think it does depend a lot on the personalities at the top. committing to work together. the last thing i'll say is your comment about d.h.s. in the nine months i have been in office, i have seen the advantage of having the components within my department together in one conference table. when we were dealing with the situation in the southwest border this summer in rio grande valley, i could put together at my conference table c.b.p., i.c.e., fema, and the coast guard to deal with the situation, to tell them what needs to be done. these are entities that were scattered across the federal
government previous to the creation of d.h.s. i have seen the synergies of putting a loft these components together in one department. if that was the thrust of your comment i agree with t >> i'm glad it's working and communicating with all your elements. that's why it was stood up. we need to learn from the 9/11 commission report. the reason we combated the stove piping and sharing of information, americans are counting on you guys. thank you so much. god bless you. i yield back. >> the chair recognizes mr. o'rourke. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for holding this hearing. i join my colleagues who said earlier that there's perhaps no way that the american public can know everything that each of you and the men and women who work with you have done to protect this country. none the less we owe you our thanks and i want to join my colleagues in letting you know how much we appreciate it. secretary johnson, i appreciate you setting the record straight on terrorist threats to the homeland from our border with mexico.
i could not agree more with you that despite our success thus far, that there have not been any terrorist plots connected to the southern border. there's no evidence that isis is preparing to infiltrate the united states. i couldn't agree more with you this is something we need to remain vigilant against, continue to guard against. continue to use all of our resources as warranted by the threat that exists based on the evidence that we find. i also appreciate you answering my colleagues' question about whether or not we have sufficient resources on the southern border. we are spending $18 billion a year. we have 20,000 border patrol agents. the vast majority of whom are on the southern border today. those are double the numbers, more than double the numbers we saw five or six or seven years ago. as you mentioned, the number of apprehensions is at a record low level. we saw 1.6 million apprehensions 15 years ago on the eve of 9/11. this year with the spike in rio grande valley i think it's going to be right at about half a million at the highest.
in the el paso sector, the community i represent, the average agent apprehended 4.2 migrants or crossers this last year. 4.2 per agent. now, that number does not reflect the deterrent value those agents have. i think there is a lot to be said for that. you also said earlier that while we have sufficient federal resources there, we could use more. you are mentioned the center proposal, which i think was to add another 20,000 agents on the border. i'm concerned that when we know that the greatest risk is at our airports. we talked about homegrown terrorists. that we are obsessively focusing on the southern border. let's remain vigilant. but we have finite resources. we should apply them where we have the greatest threats based on established risks we have been able to determine. let me get your thoughts on that comment.
>> most people would endorse the notion of a risk-based strategy to homeland security, border security, aviation security. we focus resources where we believe the risk exists. it's an effective, efficient use of taxpayer dollars. in aviation security, for example, we made the judgment to develop the t.s.a. precheck program where we focus resources on the population we know less about. and the border parole experts that i have talked to also endorse that approach. and so with the additional personnel, additional boots on the ground, on the border comes surveillance technology, the ability to monitor what's going on on the southwest border. to know where the threat areas are because they do migrate. they do move around. we had a challenge this summer in south texas. so i continually with our border
patrol personnel look at where are the threat areas, how has it evolved. so in my judgment in response to your question i think that a risk-based strategy is appropriate and i think that technology, more technology, more surveillance, is the key to our future for border security. >> just following on your comments. my colleague sought analogy in previous conflicts to apply to this threat from terrorists who might want to enter the homeland. i also think about the french on the eve of world war ii and their obsession with the line and somehow through fortifications and line of defense and the specific place we are going to somehow solve a threat posed to this country. i think we have to be far more creative and really be rigorous and disciplined about applying resources to where those threats are or where they could be based on established risk.
last question to you, mr. secretary. there is a southern border and approaches campaign plan through d.h.s. some have compared this to a south com-type effort of organizing resources and assets against a specific threat. could you very briefly describe the intent of that campaign and where you were in its implementation? >> first of all, going back to your previous question, i think i speak for my colleagues when i say none of us want -- none of us downplay or underestimate the risk of -- or the concern of a terrorist or terrorist organization infiltrating our homeland. that is probably our primary
concern, day to day, when we go to work every day. that is something we have to continually be vigilant about. southern campaign plan is in development. i expect to be in a position to announce some things in the month of october concerning the southern campaign plan. it is an effort to more strategically bring to bear more resources from my department on boarder security in a way that is not stove piped. in a way that is strategic in how we use all our different resources within the department. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> the chair recognizes mr. chaffetz. >> thank you, mr. chairman, i thank all three of you for your dedication and the men and women who serve in our departments and agencies. secretary johnson, i want to thank you particularly for the good work the men and women are doing in homeland security. i can tell you it's taken off is the production and response to congress in terms of responding to our letters and inquiries is the difference i cannot tell you how much better it is. i thank you and the people who work on this.
i do appreciate it. >> i'd like to respond but you are getting them faster. >> true. since you took office, secretary johnson, on december 23, are you aware of any apprehensions of suspected or known terrorists who are trying to come to our country illegally? >> that's an important question. attempting to come to this country? >> who came across our border illegally. did you ever apprehend anybody who was a known terrorist, a suspected terrorist, somebody who had ties to a terrorist organization? >> sitting here right now no specific case comes to mind. that doesn't mean there is none.
perhaps director comey can think of one. sitting here right now none comes to mind, but that doesn't mean there isn't one. nor does that mean there is no investigation of one, either. >> my concern is that i have reason to believe on september 10 there were actually four individuals trying to cross through the texas border who were apprehended at two different stations that do have ties to known terrorist organizations in the middle east. are you not aware of that? >> i have heard reports to that effect. i don't know the accuracy of the reports or how much credence to give them. but i have heard reports to that effect. >> you as a secretary, does that information rise to the level of the secretary? let me give you some metrics and some of the reason i'm concerned about what's going on in the southwest border. this is an internal document of yours. while there were, as noted, nearly 466,000 apprehensions over the last 351 days, we also had 157,012 got aways.
we had 142,630 reported turnbacks. but one of the other metrics that's also fascinating to me is the sensors found there primarily throughout the southwest, we had just under 5 million sensor hits in fiscal year 2013, but fiscal year 2014, over the last 251 days, we now have had more than six million of those hits. we got tortoises and animals that -- there's a lot of false positives there. but the concern is if you look at the apprehensions, we have apprehended people from 143 different countries, according to the internal statistics, 13 were from syria, six from iraq, four from iran. and the list goes on to 143 different countries. the men and women that work on our southwest border, they do an amazing job. but to suggest that we have
operational control of the border, help me understand this. you said there was a 70% to 90% success rate? explain to me what that is. >> when you look at what we believe to be total attempts to cross the border illegally, the estimated rate of those who make the attempt, of those who are apprehended are somewhere between 70% and 90%. it varies in time. >> previously the g.a.o. had indicated there was only a 6% operational control of the border. what percentage, what is the operational control of the border at this time? >> i don't have that number off hand. i do agree with you that the challenge of those coming from countries other than mexico, particularly into the rio grande valley sector, is one i'm very concerned about.
it's something that i have been concerned about since i took office in january. i have seen it myself at our detention center in brownsville when i visited there in january. there was something like 80 nationalities. of illegal migrants there. >> i need to interrupt because i have just a little time. i have to switch real quick to a yes-no question. in 1983 president reagan put in place the prohibition on libyan nationals from seeking visas to come to the united states to be trained in aviation security -- aviation and nuclear sciences. myself, the judiciary chairman, bob goodlatte, congressman and i introduced legislation that would keep that prohibition in place. there's been a process going through your offices and through the administration to actually reverse that prohibition that was put in place in 1983 that now sits on your desk. what is your view of lifting that prohibition?
>> i do not intend to lift that prohibition at this time. i don't believe legislation to prevent me from lifting it is necessary. given the current environment i do not intend to lift it at this time. >> i appreciate it. thank you. yield back. >> the chair recognizes mr. swalwell. >> i thank the chair. to our witnesses, 13 years ago i was a congressional intern here in this town on september 11, i watched with great interest our country's response to september 11. and i watched the creation, mr. secretary, of your department. and this committee become a full standing committee. and now i think what we are experiencing with the rise and spread of isil in the middle east and our efforts to respond to it is exactly why this department was created. so first i just want to thank you, mr. secretary, and the two directors, for the work you do every day to answer to these
challenges to keep us safe here at home. while we are going to consider today what offensive measures we may take abroad, the critical component i'm most concerned about is what are we doing here at home? so first i just want to get out of the way. something that my colleague from texas alluded to. mr. secretary, do we have any evidence of any of the following groups coming across our southern border? isil? >> we have no specific intelligence that members of isil are crossing into the united states on our southern border. director olsen could comment more specifically or correct me on that. >> i'll just go one by one. how about hezbollah? yes or no? >> same answer. >> how about al nutra? >> i believe the answer is the same. again i want to defer to my
intelligence community colleague here in terms of any assessments of the current environment. >> may i also ask, in addition to it not stopping anyone or interacting with anyone or interdicting anyone coming across who is not a member these groups, would it also be safe to say that the intelligence community has not collected any information in the various means and methods that uses to select intelligence that there are efforts under way to use the southern border to go into the united states? >> i think that's true certainly with respect to your first question, congressman on isil. we have seen it. i mentioned chatter on -- from sympathizers about that question. but we have seen nothing to indicate any effort to enter the border into the united states by isil. >> i was in jordan, egypt, morocco, and israel two weeks
ago and met with our state department teams and allies over there. my greater fear is not the southern border, but we were told about the number of americans who are over in syria and iraq fighting shoulder to shoulder with isil as well as the number of westerners who are over there. i was hoping that you could elaborate on what we are going to do or what we are doing to disrupt any plans of theirs to return to the united states and carry out with the tools and hate that they have built and developed abroad. >> congressman, we have made enhanced efforts to track these individuals within the various communities of the u.s. government. as you heard me mention, we have enhanced our aviation security measures. we are making enhanced efforts. we have stepped up our dialogue with our allies. with our partners there. the president will chair a u.n. security council session next week on the topic of foreign fighters.
and we are considering a number of things to do that will give us more information from passengers from countries from visa waiver countries so that we know more about individuals who attempt to travel. there's always law enforcement. i believe the f.b.i. does a terrific job from the law enforcement perspective of investigating and arresting people who attempt to join terrorist organizations, who attempt to leave the country. i believe our allies also understand the nature of this threat and are making enhanced efforts as well. >> with the number of foreign fighters coming in to syria and iraq, i have asked you, mr. secretary, and others from the department, that we really expedite the number of visa waiver countries who are participating in interpol's stolen and lost travel documents database. i still remain concerned after what happened back in the spring with the malaysian airline disappearance.
two passengers had boarded that flight with lost or stolen passports. now more than ever we need to make sure we know and have these other countries step up their efforts to report to interpol. i -- if you could update us briefly on what we are doing. >> we have been having that dialogue with our allies. i think they understand the nature of that issue. >> great. thank you again to each of you for what you are doing to keep us safe here. i yield back. >> this committee's considering legislation to require visa waiver countries to provide more data and information in exchange for that privilege. with that, the chair now recognizes mr. barletta. >> thank you, mr. chair. i don't know film' making the -- i do not know if we are making the argument here whether or not we should secure our southern border or not. that's the feeling i'm getting. there's been a lot of talk if
any terrorists -- whether or not any terrorists have crossed the border illegally. but we do know that those wishing to do us harm have manipulated in the past our immigration system to enter and remain in the united states. mahmoud abul halima, a convicted perpetrator of the 1993 world trade center bombing, received amnesty in 1986 after he claimed to be an agricultural worker despite being a cabdriver in new york. the only thing he planted in america was a bomb. president obama has told the american people and potential terrorists that he plans to grant some form of administrative amnesty to potentially millions of those currently in the country unlawfully.
secretary johnson, as you make recommendations to the president, as to how he should implement such a program, how will you assure the american people that another abouhalima will not slip through the cracks? >> congressman, i am very focused on knowing as much as we can about individuals who are undocumented in this country. and i believe that it if an earned path to citizenship were to become law, that would encourage people to come forward and submit to a background check so that they can get on the books. i know there's a lot of debate -- give me a second, please. there's a lot of debate about the earned path to citizenship. from my homeland security perspective, i want people who are living in this country, undocumented, to come forward and get on the books and subject themselves to a background check so can i know who they are and whether it's the current daca program or an earned path to citizenship. whether it's deferred action or
earned path to citizenship, from my homeland security perspective , i want people to come forward and submit -- >> secretary johnson, i have dealt with this as a mayor in my hometown. do we honestly believe that any would-be terrorist or criminal or drug dealer is going to come forward to have a criminal background check done on them? are they going to continue to remain underground -- nobody with a criminal record's going to come forward. >> the more i can learn about the undocumented population in this country, the better. the more effectively we can use our removal resources against the type of person you just described, the better. so i'm interested in going after public safety, national security threats in terms of our removal resources. i want to have a system that more effectively gets to that population.
>> do you believe mahmud abouhalima would have come forward for a criminal background check in 1993? >> most criminals do not subject themselves to criminal background checks. i agree with that. >> he still would have planted that bomb in the world trade center. the 9/11 commission report that i have here -- i question whether this was a report and recommendations that was passed by congress and signed by the president, why we haven't taken those recommendations and enforced them? the summary in the very first line says enforcement of our immigration law is a core component that according to the commission, up to 15 of the 19 hijackers on september 11 could have been intercepted or deported through more diligent enforcement of immigration laws. why are we not picking up the recommendations of the 9/11 commission report so we don't have another attack again? >> there are a number of 9/11 commission recommendations that i wish we could all adopt. >> but enforcing our immigration
law is number one. >> very plainly enforcement of our immigration laws is a top priority of mine. and with the resources that congress gives us, we can and we should do an effective job of going after those who represent threats to public safety. >> and secure the borders. >> and secure the borders. >> the discussion here, and we whether it in the past or not somebody has crossed the border already that is a terrorist, nobody is a plane to crash into one of our buildings until the first time as well. that is not a good reason that we should not secure the border because we believe that nobody has crossed the border who is a terrorist already. thank you. >> the chair recognizes mr. keating. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank all three of our witnesses, particularly mr. as you leave, for your
service. it is preclear -- also i want to thank particularly director for being here the first time. i appreciate it and i think it is very important for stop it is clear from all of your testimony that the number one threat remains homegrown radicalized terrorists in our country, and that is something that i think silheightened through the i threat as well. thee is a person wanted on who went to one of the same schools but one of my children did and later went to school just a few miles away from them. that is close to home. when you look at these threats and you look at the different challenges, i am reminded of my work that we did with the boston marathon bombing and that investigation concluded that information sharing with local
police is so important, and given director olsen's testimony has become more sophisticated, it is harder to intercept messages, that remains even more of a priority, so i would like to ask director comey to share with the committee the progress that you have made in terms of doing a better job, sharing information with local police, and also what progress is made in terms of formalizing that, too. a memorandum of understanding that can be there and transcends different administrations and the need, if any, for regulation or statutory change in that regard. .> thank you, mr. keating anybody who was asleep before 9/11 awoke up today would not recognize the depth and extent of information sharing among federal agencies and with our state and local partners. the world is transformed in that respect, but i also believe we can always find room to improve
it, so a number of things we have done since boston that i think have improved it is we have made clear that we want the default to be information sharing, and we do not want anything to be an impediment to that or misunderstood as an impediment to that. we also have done something else that i think makes great sense, which is that each of our joint terrorism task forces has a regular meeting with all of the leadership of the agencies involved to review our inventory. what came in over the last -- it has to be the last 30 days at least, or two weeks. what came in, questions, concerns and so that everybody is in think on what is going on. there are a number of other smaller ways in which i think we have improved our information sharing, and i travel around the country and meet with state and local law enforcement and 44 field offices, and i'm hearing good things. i think we are in a good place, but i do not want to rest on that. there is a way something i have not thought of yet, so i continue that dialogue to improve. >> i appreciate that.
one thing i found that local police are not taking enough advantage of -- local police have access to classified information more than they did, but it is my understanding that they are not taking advantage of that the way they can. is there something that we can do to help those numbers, to make it easier for them or to encourage them to get more of that information? >> i do not know other than just encouraging them. i am urging all leadership of agencies to participate in our task forces, to at least get the secret level clearance so that if you need to, you can see things very, very quickly, and we are getting there. people are coming around. people are very, very busy, and they also know that there are offices that are cleared and are seeing everything, so i think that removes some of the sense of urgency, but we want to encourage that more and more. like i just want to follow-up. for your thank you meeting in our shared interest in information sharing with local and state officials. i'm just tried to reinforce the fact that even though i think your only the nt